Navigating housemate territory

Whether on or off-campus, you more than likely will have to face the reality of living with at least one other person. The experience can either turn out to be extremely fun and fascinating or it might just be the most difficult hurdle you have to overcome all year.

Each person does things differently and this will inevitably lead to some disagreement in your experience living together. In many cases what determines if the person you share space with becomes a friend or not, is the approach you take in handling situations and facilitating a relationship. However it’s not all up to you, some people just aren’t nice and will refuse to make changes thus making it impossible to get along.

Having a good relationship with your housemates begins with having respect for each other. Understand that you have flaws that bother people the same way their flaws might bother you. Of course, that excludes non-negotiable issues like not cleaning up after oneself or always being noisy. Find a way to appreciate the differences between you and your housemates and, wherever possible, focus on their good qualities rather than dwelling on the negatives.

This also ties into the common issue of miscommunication. Lots of first-time roommates tend to be passive-aggressive towards each other when there is a conflict or prefer to sit in resentment and anger without saying a word. It always makes for a more positive outcome when you respectfully voice concerns in a straightforward way. Speaking out in anger invites the other person to respond in anger which further accelerates conflict. Your roommate can’t read your mind and it’s impossible for you to read your roommate’s mind.

Despite assuming the best from someone, make sure you and your housemates establish clearly defined boundaries. From the get-go you and your housemates will need to set ground rules about quiet hours, study times, garbage schedules, cleanliness policies and other matters to avoid serious issues down the line. Setting boundaries prevents you and your housemates from potentially crossing lines you didn’t know about and causing resentment towards each other. Brock’s off-campus living website has a ‘Housemate Agreement Form’ that helps by clearly identifying boundaries set by each housemate.

Finally, when a conflict does arise, always attempt to negotiate. Very few people will refuse to listen to reasonable requests and concerns if approached the right way. Compromise is integral to having a good relationship with your housemates. As a good housemate, try to read situations as it can sometimes be better to postpone resolving a conflict until both parties are not heated and are in a good frame of mind. If no solution can be reached, there are always helpful resources available through your residence Don or Brock’s counselling services.

Living with housemates can be a positive experience that presents an opportunity to learn about yourself and to make friends. The same friend you made living together in first-year just might end up being the person you opt to live with for the rest of your time at Brock. If you’d rather live off-campus during or after first year, it can be a whole lot easier finding a place with two or three friends who you have experience living with than trying by yourself. For off-campus living, you can visit brockocl.ca.

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